Tag Archives: Executive Functions

How to Take Action when You’re Not Interested

Have a few strategies ready to help you take action.

By Marla Cummins

As an adult with ADHD, you know that it is much easier to follow through on tasks that interest you. So, of course, the more of these you can have on your plate the better.

But the reality is we all have tasks we don’t want to do, and for one reason or another they still need to be on our plate. We can’t delegate, barter, drop or defer these tasks. We need to do them. Now!

Obviously, these are also the tasks that we are most likely to procrastinate on starting, never mind completing.

And, while we are dragging our feet on these tasks, they still take up a great deal of our mental time and energy. Consider the following statements as they relate to a task you are putting off.

  • While I really don’t want to do                      (fill in the blank), I am thinking about it a lot, even worrying about it.
  • And thoughts of it will pop into my head at random times, distracting me from tending to my task(s) at hand.
  • I will likely be behind the eight ball when I eventually get around to it, and will need to put aside everything else to get it done.
  • Another day. Another fire drill!

So, how do we follow through on those tasks that having us screaming, “I don’t wanna!!!”

What About The Task Turns You Off?

First, figure out what about the task turns you off. Here are some possibilities:

  • It bores me. Simple as that.
  • It takes too much time and energy because it is hard for me.
  • It is not important to me.
  • I have too many other tasks on my list… “Take a number and fall to the back of the line” is what comes to mind when I think of this task.
  • My other reasons are…

Once you’ve figured out why you don’t want to do a task, the next step is to figure out what you can do to follow through on those tasks that must fall on your plate.

Because often it is the not deciding and not doing that can contribute significantly to your feelings of overwhelm.

Activating the Reward System

Then, take into consideration the other challenges that may be getting in your way. An understanding of the process that happens in the brain’s Reward System is a good place to start.

In simplified terms:

We make choices and prioritize goals when a sensory stimulus is sent and processed in the brain indicating a reward is on the way.

When a reward is anticipated, dopamine is released to various parts of the brain, which activates our motor functionsattention and memory pathway. (When the memory of this stimulus and associated reward is in place, we will be more likely to tackle the task next time.)

When the reward is concrete, it is easy to do something because we are motivated by the obvious anticipated reward. But here is what may happen when you think about doing the report you dread that is due in two days:

♦ As you look at the bathroom, you think, “I should clean the bathroom. Then I’ll do the report.”

♦ Then when you sit down at the computer, a notification from Facebook comes in. “Facebook, take me away from all of this…. I need a break before I start the report.”

♦ “Wow. Look at all those emails. I really need to answer those before doing the report!”

When deciding to clean the bathroom, look at FB or plow through your emails the stimulus is right in front of you and the reward is immediate. Because the reward for doing the report is not so obvious or immediate, it is harder to make the connection at the moment.

In this simplified version, you can see that your motivation to do a task is related to the immediacy of the reward when all is working as it should be in the Reward System of the brain.

Remembering Your “Why”

True enough. It is important for everyone to make the connection between doing a task that may not be intrinsically interesting and the potential rewards.

Here are some possible starting points:

  • I want to be successful at my job and doing reports is just part of the gig.
  • These reports are important to have the data we need to make good business decisions.
  • The reports actually aren’t that important to me, but I want to be a dependable team player. And Bob really needs these reports…

But you need to have a visceral connection to the payoffnot just an intellectual connection. That is, you want to be able to really feel and see the reward in all colors of the rainbow. To do this you will need to go one step further.

For example, you might want to think about having a visual cue (pictures, quotes totems, etc.) to help you remember what it will feel like when you are successful; you can look at this item in those moments when you think, “I don’t wanna!”

Check out this list of 20 Tools to Enhance your Memory for more examples of ways to address the challenge of a weak working memory.

Not Enough Dopamine

Now you are thinking, “Ok, got it, Marla. I have to make the connection between the task and the reward. But I don’t think that is going to be enough…”

You are right!

Along with a weak working memory, it is believed that there is not enough dopamine in the ADHD Brain to carry out the processes in the Reward System, particularly motor functions and attending.

So, even when you can really feel the reward of a task that does not interest you may still:

  • feel like you are standing in cement.
  • avoid it – not do it or think about it.

Not to despair, though. You’ll just have to incorporate a few more workarounds in order to get going.

Knowing Why Is Not Enough

Yes, it is important to acknowledge that there are going to be times you are bored. It happens. And remember that your particular brain chemistry makes it harder than for neurotypical people

Be that as it may, you can still be proactive in meeting the challenge of doing these type of tasks by having a few strategies ready to employ when you feel resistance to doing a task you need to do. Here are a few options:

  • making a game out of a task, such as “beat the clock.”
  • setting a timer for the amount of time you think you can tolerate working on a particular task.
  • timing when you do a boring task to when you take your stimulant medication.
  • taking a break and doing something else. Then coming back to the task when you have more energy
  • taking notes during meetings to keep your attention.
  • using a fidget toy help keep you on task.

What other strategies have you used?

ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line

Getting started and following through on tasks that are not immediately interesting for you is harder for Adults with ADHD.

But taking the above steps, and getting the support you need, can make it easier!

 

By Marla Cummins. Please visit Marla’s website at www.marlacummins.com for additional articles and resources on Adult ADHD. Original article posted at: http://marlacummins.com/adhd-finding-your-motivation-when-youre-not-interested/

“Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net”   Modified on Canva

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Organization for Children: Supporting Executive Functions

Help your child feel successful

Help your child feel successful

by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC

Have you ever noticed that staying organized — or getting started on a project and seeing it through to completion — are all in a day’s work for some people, but for others, they don’t know where to begin?

Well, that might be due to executive functions and how well they are working — or not working. Executive functions are the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner — and current research shows that these functions are responsible for how effective we are at managing ourselves. Basically, these functions are the CEOs of our brains.

For the most part, we don’t need to consciously access these skills for day-to-day habits or routines. However, when we face new challenges or stressors that is when the CEO must take charge. And when it is not managing effectively, that’s when we forget things, can’t get organized, can’t get started, lose track of time, and lose our stream of thought. It’s behavior that makes some children look unmotivated, uncaring, and, well, unintelligent — while nothing could be further from the truth. By and large, these children are really suffering from a neurologically based difficulty, which results from incomplete or immature development of their frontal/prefrontal cortex of their brains. It’s not that these kids won’t perform, it’s that they can’t on their own … yet.

So how can we help? There are two distinct approaches. First, modify the environment. Help structure your child’s work- space, modify his work, and provide more prompts. Second, model actions and behaviors and join in with him as he works on his skills. Don’t be concerned that you may enable your child. Before he is ready to be independent, he needs to develop the necessary skills. Once the skills are developed, you will be able to gradually lessen your active involvement with your child.
It is important to recognize that weaknesses in executive functions are real and neurologically based. There is no shortage of strategies and devices to help children — and adults — improve their executive functioning. Children need modeling. The skills they need to be organized and manage their time effectively are not difficult, but they are not necessarily intuitive. Providing support and guidance, either directly or with outside support, will go a long way in helping your child be and feel successful. Here are some tips for your child to organize school materials and remember important information:

Day planner

Mike Rohde\'s Custom Moleskine Planner
Mike Rohde / Foter / CC BY-NC

Think of an agenda book or day planner as your calendar for your whole life, not just school.
• Write all of your school assignments, after-school activities, and social plans here.
• Use a large paper clip to mark the page you need to be on for quicker entry.
Binders and notebooks
Use different colors for each subject binder and notebook.
• For each subject, you will have two three-ring binders. One will be the everyday binder, and the second will be the reserve binder, where all of your papers will be moved to after tests. This allows you to straighten out and empty excess papers so you can focus on the current work. (Note: Check with each subject teacher before removing papers from your binder.)
• Both binders for each subject should be the same color (blue for math, green for science, etc.) and have the same labeled dividers.
• Keep one master reference binder with dividers for each subject. Here, you can keep any material that you might need to use in years to come, such as math formulas, social studies facts or periodic tables.
• Perhaps two of your subjects can be combined into one larger binder or notebook for less to carry.
Be sure to label everything! Big bumper stickers work great. Have fun, and be creative!

Master folder
Consider a multi-pocket folder to keep with you all day. It can hold the day’s hand- outs, work to be turned in, and your agenda book. This is an excellent tool for the overall organization of papers to go to and from school. It should be cleaned out each week, by transferring the appropriate papers to either binders or the recycle bin. (An excellent sturdy folder can be found at Nick’s Folders for $3.50. Not an affiliate.)

Locker
Clean out your locker and/or workspace every week, to lessen the chance of losing papers.
• Consider small trays to keep extra pens, pencils, tissues, erasers, etc.
• Keep a dry-erase board or small notepad for writing reminders.
• Try to keep your backpack on the hook, so there is more room to store items.
Backpack
• Keep an extra pen and pencil inside at all times.
• Look in your assignment book and check your locker’s dry-erase board before packing up for the day.
• When you get home, empty the entire bag near your workspace and sort the contents for homework and notes for parents. • Pack it up before you go to sleep at night, which will decrease the odds of forgetting things.

Alarms
A kitchen timer is great for keeping you on task and allowing for time-limited breaks. Set it for various intervals to see if you are on task and on track. What works for you? Set a start time or break time on your computer or cellphone alarm for a discreet nudge. Set an alarm for the time you want to go to sleep as a reminder to pack up, brush teeth, etc.

to do list
mister ebby / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Lists
• Keep a dry-erase board or a small pad of paper by your workspace and use it to jot down things on your mind, so they can be done later and not distract you now. Write out your homework plan for the day — what you will do and in what order? It’s a great feeling to cross items off! Use it to plan out long-term projects or for math problems and other quick temporary notes.

Structures
A structure is any device that reminds you, visually, of something important. They work because they interrupt your ordinary mind flow and grab your attention. Some of the best structures come from your intuition and may not seem to make sense at first. Be creative — experiment with different ways to jolt your memory! Here are some examples:
• Wear a rubber band on your wrist when you want to remember to do something, such as breathe deeply, speak powerfully, sit up straight, or take home your violin.
• Put a chair by your door to remind yourself to take along important items tomorrow.
• Send yourself an e-mail, text or voice mail to request that a certain task be done.
Have some friends over once a month. This can be a structure for cleaning your room or keeping up relationships with friends.
• Devise an intentionally fabricated deadline on the day you start a project — such as scheduling a time to show a friend or family member your completed project.
• Schedule study time with one friend a week for two months to get you to study a particular subject.
• Counting is helpful to make you aware of your behavior. For instance, count how often you participate in class and work on increasing the number each day. Counting does not require you to do anything other than notice, but noting every time you do something heightens your awareness.
• A special slogan on your key chain can be a structure to remember to smile or be positive.

roary lion
merwing✿little dear / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

A toy lion on your desk can remind you to be ferocious in pursuit of a goal.
• Put your keys in the refrigerator so you remember your lunch.
• Make a sign around your work area: “Don’t give in to the impulse!”
• Create a screen saver with one-line, motivational statements.
• A coach is one of the best structures. Text or e-mail your coach every day when a certain task is done.
“To do” lists are not meant as nag lists — just a place to hold important things. Be creative where you put your notes; try to have it somewhere in your field of vision on a regular basis: the refrigerator, your desk, next to your bed. Try to develop a consistent habit of where you write and keep important notes.

 

Written by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC © 2013 www.PTSCoaching.com All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced or electronically distributed as long as attribution to PTS Coaching is maintained. Note: This article originally appeared as Get it Together! Tips to conquer your child’s organizational problems in LONG ISLAND SPECIAL CHILD, Fall/Winter 2010/11 and was retitled Just What are Executive Functions? 

“Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net” – Modified on Canva.com

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